The bed is warm and soft, freshly-made and smelling of clean linen and little
else. Alphonse sprawls out in the centre of it—'starfishes', their mother
used to call it—flinging his arms and legs out wide to take up as much space
as he can, and stares up at the ceiling, waiting patiently for his brother to
finish warming himself by the fire.

Because with the approach of winter, Ed's steel arm and
leg have become most unwelcome; the metal chills too quickly, leaving Ed with
a painful ache in the flesh beneath the heavy ports; leaving him to hobble around
the house like an arthritic old man, because it hurts to step too hard
with his left leg; leaving him to practically drown himself in painkillers when
he thinks Al's not looking, so he can forget the ache for his little brother's

And it was no fun for either of them at night, when the
automail sucked the warmth away from the two of them rather than heating up.
And at first Ed had simply slept on the floor, by the dying embers in the fireplace;
but Alphonse had shortly pointed out that that was unacceptable, and that it
would be easier to warm the prosthetics over the fire before bed. "That way
we don't have to buy a hot water bottle," he'd said brightly, and his brother
had snorted, but hadn't offered an argument.

"It should be about ready now," he says softly, pushing
himself upright, and Ed flexes his metal arm before thoughtfully running his
good hand over it.

"Yeah," he says, and brushes his bangs behind his ears
as he stands up. "Budge up, Al, I'm just gonna put the fire out."

"Of course," Al says softly, and rolls over, flopping
down belly-first over a pillow. His brother—still moving stiffly, but much
less so than usual—banks the fire, and pinches the candles on the mantelpiece
out with a metal thumb and forefinger before climbing awkwardly onto the bed.
Al opens his mouth to offer—he's not sure, but something in the way his brother
nestles down so firmly amidst the sheets makes him frown. Ed's automail is warm
—at least he won't be sharing the bed with icy appendages, like he had been
this time last month—but that is not enough for Ed, and Al knows it.

They've always been close enough that they don't really
need to talk to each other before doing things, and Ed doesn't complain
when Al pulls the sheets back, placing his hands flat against his brother's
spine. Thanks to the fire it's still warm in the room, though nearly pitch-black,
the only light coming from the sole remaining candle on the little table on
Ed's side of the bed, where he keeps his books and his reading glasses and the
oil Winry gave him for his automail; it's not too long until the winter solstice,
and the sun set at four o'clock today, far too early for Ed's comfort.

His brother is tense—always is, and Al can feel
it as soon as his hands glide upwards, to the back of Ed's neck. He digs in
—Ed makes a small gasp and twitches beneath him—and sets to work, his fingers
soothing aches and chasing away knots, providing a relief. As always, Edward
melts into his touch like butter, going from a quivering mess of tension and
pain to a sprawled, pliable human in Al's arms, as each touch draws a whimper
of appreciation out of him.

"I wish you would let me do something about... this,"
he says, as he does every night, chasing a stubborn kink out of his brother's
shoulder. "I don't like seeing you in pain, brother."

"No," his brothers insists (as he does every night),
despite his drowsiness. "I'm not letting you put yourself in danger for me,
you moron." He shifts to allow Al to access his chest, and gasps softly as Al's
deft hands force a knot away within seconds. "Besides." He reaches up with his
good hand, and tangles his fingers in Al's soft, fine hair.

"Besides what?" Al breathes, his hands not slowing, continuing
to knead and soothe and ease, to drain the pain away from the person he loves

Ed pushes himself up awkwardly, stops with his lips barely
an inch away from Al's. "It's not so bad," he says, and Al can feel the puff
of hot air over his face with each word, "When I have you."

He lifts his eyebrows, and smiles. "Who says I'm yours?"
he asks; but the question goes unanswered as his brother closes that final distance,
brushing their lips together hesitantly.

They've experience enough at this sort of thing for it
to not be clumsy; just sweet, and long, and gentle. Al's mouth opens eagerly,
and his brother takes his time exploring, his tongue sliding over Al's teeth,
rasping over the ridges.

Ed's hands are rising, the automail gently sliding up
under his shirt to lie against his heart and it is warm, warm still with
fire heat but for a moment it almost feels—real, and not an imitation. Ed's
other hand is still lost in his hair, but it has become untangled and now Ed
is petting him, gently, like he is a kitten and not a man. He's twenty-three,
now, twenty-three and not a scared little boy any more; but he'll always be
that sweet shy young thing to Edward, who looks at him and sees him as he really
is, all his lies and self-delusions gone.

Because Ed knows him, as he knows Ed; knows all his dark
little secrets and his vices and loves him all the same, always has and
always will.

Al breaks the kiss slowly, reluctant to give up the warmth;
Ed blinks at him but before he can question anything Al goes back, and this
time he is the more forceful one. He gnaws on his brother's lower lip, touches
Ed's tongue lightly with his own—it tastes of salt—before falling away,
leading his brother into chasing him; he wraps his arms around Ed, pulling him
closer, loving the warmth that leaks through his clothing.

It's moments like these, in which they can both forget,
about cold artificial limbs, and aches, and pain, that make everything worthwhile.
Moments of sheer pleasure, a sweet sort of bliss, that make up for everything

Alphonse breaks the kiss—there's a trail of saliva down
his brother's chin, and Ed wipes it away as soon as he realises. Cautiously
he reaches out, cupping Ed's cheek gently and running his thumb over the hard
line of his brother's lips, enjoying the way they curve into a smile at the
touch. "We should get some rest," he says, "How do you feel?"

"Much better," Ed says, with a warm, honest grin; leans
over and kisses Al's cheek. "Thanks."

"No problem," Al says, wrapping the blankets around them
both. He snuggles up close to Ed, tangling their legs together—the automail
is still very warm, and feels very nice—and pitching an arm around Ed's side.
"I love you," Al whispers, into the softness of Ed's hair.

"I know," Ed replies, and grins. "I mean, I can totally
see why. Nobody else kisses the way I do."

Al lifts an eyebrow but does not deem this worthy of response,
and just snuggles closer. They lie like that for some time, just listening to
each other's breathing as the lone remaining candle gutters and flickers, the
light and shadows shifting around the room.

"... I love you too," Ed murmurs, and kisses him on the

Al falls asleep still smiling.